The epitome of luxury
A universal concept
In exploring the origins of the term 'luxury', we find the earliest use in the modern sense of the word, comes from the mid-17th century. It comes via the Old French 'luxurie' which derives from ‘luxus’, and according to the Oxford Latin Dictionary (1992), this means ‘soft or extravagant living, sumptuousness, luxuriousness, opulence, and indulgence’.
The term luxury is however widely accepted as being a subjective notion, and whilst a myriad of concepts have been offered in the quest to provide it with distinct shape and boundaries, it remains difficult to precisely define. Today, it continues to defy universal definition and takes on its meaning based on context and culture nuances. There is however, consensus, that luxury typically refers to the highest standards in quality, creativity, craftsmanship, and other attributes which aim to contribute to a superlative consumer experience.
Luxury is a plexus of meanings; it is an intricate notion that is ascribed to products, services or experiences, which are perceived as transcending utility, necessity, or functionality. Hence, luxury can never be characterised by a single attribute; it is multifaceted; framed by a seamless fusion of creativity and originality; exclusivity and superiority; of materials, and craftsmanship, aesthetics, communication, and distribution. Luxury combines authenticity with romanticity; and it is storytelling at its very best.
An evolving concept
Today, the concept of luxury is evolving, with new trends heralded by digitalisation and a strong new wave of conscious social change, embracing elevated, sustainability-focused living. Modern luxury is increasingly leaning into a new narrative which seeks to leave behind traditional notions of luxury linked to excess, extravagance, and antiquity, and strives for a timeless and meaningful identity harnessed by the force of digital. Wealthy and affluent consumers are increasingly pursuing positive, progressive changes in their lives and are expecting luxury brands to do better. In response, to remain relevant, brands are promoting meaningful, mindful and less disposable luxuries, a trend predominantly linked to millennials and Gen Z.
The TEN LEVERS of Luxury
At A New Level Luxury, we have developed the TEN LEVERS of Luxury Model, an innovative and comprehensive strategy tool, which identifies the fundamental characteristics of luxury. Each component represents a 'lever', and indicates a strategic or operational component, which businesses must tactically leverage, alongside interplays with other levers, to achieve a desired strategic goal. The aggregate of these variables represents the business strategy of the company. Each lever requires varying levels of resource, and a business succeeds when it pulls the right lever, to the right degree, at the right time, to achieve an optimal outcome.
1 > AUTHENTICITY
Authenticity is the epitome of luxury. It represents a cornerstone in the perceived value of a luxury brand, but is often misunderstood and assumed to mean merely genuine or venerable. There are various considerations of authenticity - heritage, founder, renown, virtue, elements of which are combined and uniquely blended to forge authenticity differently Once upon a time, before luxury became synonymous with aesthetics and symbolism, it was fundamentally about being true to its core purpose and function. The Birkin for example; today a symbol of luxury, was initially designed as just a practical, compact carryall for the actress Jane Birkin. Many years later, the bag has cemented an almost cult-like status because of the dedication of Hermes to ensure it retains its legacy and legitimacy as a handbag any woman would be proud to carry.
2 > QUALITY
Although the concept of luxury is incredibly nuanced, quality refers to the promise of superior raw materials, beyond the aesthetics of a luxury product or service. An expectation of quality, is at the core of luxury, demanding stringent processes critical to ensuring the highest standards are not compromised, thereby diminishing the value of the end-product over the process of time.
3 > CRAFTSMANSHIP
Craftsmanship is an expression of the highest levels of skill and expertise, employed in creating the finest market-leading products, from bespoke furniture to high fashion haute couture pieces. Through superior skilfulness, it seeks to elevate the core essence of the product, as a natural extension and expansion of its functional value to the customer.
4 > BRANDING
Luxury branding engages the full repertoire of all the core brand elements, transcending the visual elements such as logo, symbols and colour schemes. It communicates the brand's voice and personality with a promise of superiority and a proposition of uniqueness and exclusivity. It encapsulates the brand story to evoke an emotional connection and an aura of something timely, yet timeless.
5 > PRICE-PREMIUM
The ability to charge a high premium, requires consumers to perceive sufficient value in the item, which may be achieved through elaboration on the other components. It is a highly favourable position for a business, and studies have shown that consumers often use price as a heuristic for quality, leading to expensive products being perceived as being of higher quality.
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The Business of Luxury
Industry incumbents subscribe to a complex matrix of principles, and whilst the term continues to elude common delineation, experts studies conducted over recent decades have identified a broad spectrum of distinguishing components that define luxury products or services. The most prestigious and quintessential luxury products or services notably feature each characteristic, however the term may be assigned where some components are absent. The difference is the result of discovering an optimal balance which leverages varying degrees of pressure to each lever to the perfect degree.
The Global luxury market continues to expand, defying economic shocks and scientific predictions, and is estimated to be worth presently $1.2trn, with a predicted compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6% for the next decade.The UK luxury industry, often described as the jewel in the crown of British business, contributes approximately £50bn to the UK economy (2.5% of GDP), and employs more than 160,000 people (0.5% of the total workforce). The wide range of products and services across industries, from clothing & footwear, to food & drink; fragrances, and automobiles, to jewellery and hospitality; is ever expanding, as the needs and expectations of consumers continue to shift and evolve. Businesses must remain alert and responsive, to navigate the changing landscape, whilst delivering the highest standards of excellence and creativity.